American Life in Poetry: Column 177


Kristen Tracy is a poet from San Francisco who here captures a moment at a zoo. It’s the falling rain, don’t you think, that makes the experience of observing the animals seem so perfectly truthful and vivid?

Rain at the Zoo

A giraffe presented its head to me, tilting it   
sideways, reaching out its long gray tongue.   
I gave it my wheat cracker while small drops   
of rain pounded us both.  Lightning cracked open   
the sky.  Zebras zipped across the field.   
It was springtime in Michigan.  I watched   
the giraffe shuffle itself backwards, toward   
the herd, its bone- and rust-colored fur beading   
with water.  The entire mix of animals stood   
away from the trees.  A lone emu shook   
its round body hard and squawked.  It ran   
along the fence line, jerking open its wings.   
Perhaps it was trying to shake away the burden   
of water or indulging an urge to fly.  I can’t know.   
I have no idea what about their lives these animals   
love or abhor.  They are captured or born here for us,   
and we come.  It’s true.  This is my favorite field.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © Kristen Tracy, whose most recent teen novel is Crimes of the Sarahs, Simon & Schuster, 2008. Poem reprinted from AGNI online, 9/2007, by permission of Kristen Tracy. Introduction copyright © 2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.